Friday, December 05, 2003

Bishops: trend against homegrown St Louis and Phoenix get new bishops, Burke and Olmsted respectively. And while I suppose these are considered good career moves for the guys in question, this whole deal of episcopal maneuvering bothers me. First, having lived in small cities most of my life (and never in a cardinal's see) why wouldn't I object to a good leader in my diocese getting bumped up? St Louis and Phoenix already have NHL teams -- what do they want with a great small-city bishop? Let 'em find their own. Don't cities like New York or Chicago have any good priests? When was the last time you heard a priest from a cardinal see appointed to be a bishop in Fairbanks or Helena or Metuchen? Second, these moves, and the fact that the Congregation of Bishops still do them as standard policy, shows that Rome just doesn't get it. Sex abuse cover-ups took place in part because bishops owe little or no loyalty to the clergy and laity of a diocese. They didn't grow up there. They didn't go to school there. They don't have seminary classmates among the presbyterate. They didn't cultivate working relationships with people in the dioceses and parishes there. If diocese-hopping is part of the prelate culture, that will only reinforce the natural desire to avoid messiness, to cover up, to make it look good for the boss. Third, this practice is just not in alignment with Catholic tradition. Cardinal Law mentioned after his crimes became public and when he was urged to resign that a bishop is traditionally considered "married" to his diocese. This relationship is meant to possess a special intimacy that can't be severed just because of public opinion. I would actually tend to agree with him on this one. As I would also have to call him an adulterous wife-swapper -- so what was Springfield-Cape Girardeau, a trial marrriage? In a situation in which a diocese is beset by scandal, or division, or requires an outstanding talent to lead the people out of a morass (perhaps Boston), I can understand going to someone from outside the flock. Maybe I could see as many as twenty percent of bishops appointed from outside their diocese. But the persistence of the curia in appointing bishops as they do reveals a desire to enforce loyalty to hierarchy, over and above fidelity to the faith and to Tradition. So as I wish Catholics of Phoenix and St Louis and Wichita and LaCrosse good luck with their new bishops, I have to send a sputtering raspberry across the Atlantic to our shameful bureaucrats in the curia. Wake up guys: episcopal careerism is not healthy for the Church.

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